“We exist to help business owners find their way.”
That’s our purpose statement here at Trailway. It’s a simple ethos that drives how we do business.
Purpose statements can feel like these lofty goals by some or a bunch of hot air for others. In truth, they are weight but they do not need to be fluff. Purpose statements give you your trajectory and also give your customers a quick introduction.
How Strange Culture Taught Me About Familiar Situations
I’ve traveled the world and spent a good amount of time in Southeast Asian cultures. These typically have a shame/honor way of life. Some of the most jarring questions I get when just meeting somebody is “how old are you?” Another is “how much money do you make?” My personal favorite, “what’s your home address?” This is within the first 20 seconds of talking to each other.
Now, for the typical western mindset, these things are uncomfortable. Some might even say ‘creepy’. In the States, we’ll ask somebody what work they do, and if they enjoy it. That last one is a question here that makes people uncomfortable.
In both contexts, the speakers are trying to do the same thing. They are trying to quickly become familiar with the other person. This is what a well-crafted purpose statement does for businesses. Aside from inviting them on a journey, it also gives them a place to become familiar with you. And it’s when we are familiar with a thing that we start caring for it.
Your purpose statement is found at the crossroad of your product, your customer, and your motivation.
1) Start by analyzing your product or service.
This is a great place to begin because it’s the most concrete ingredient to the purpose statement.
Make note of what your product is, what it offers, and how it helps the user. What are the features of your product and what benefit does that give?
Once these things are listed out, you can move to the next stage.
2) Next list the customer’s desires and frustrations in your industry and also the trends.
Develop a big-picture understanding of your customers. What customer base do you serve? What industry are you occupying? And what do we learn about the trends in that industry?
You are needing a broad understanding of what’s happening but it’s not so you can react to the market. The purpose statement is something unique to your business and shouldn’t be changed to look like everyone else nor to be different for different’s sake.
You are looking at your customer and the industry trends so you can better understand the climate. Later, when you develop your statement, you’ll be able to weigh it against this landscape to clue you in whether you need to be more specific about your word choice due to misunderstandings that could arise from the context.
A great place to look at when trying to figure out trends in your industry is advertisements. Look at the tones, photography, voice, and words used to connect with their customers.
3) Nobody cares about your business (until you give them a reason to).
Sorry. Businesses can sometimes feel like your baby. And how many parents think their baby is the most important thing in the room? Hopefully, almost all of them. Business owners need a strong sense of optimism but this can give us tunnel vision.
Nobody cares about your business until you give them a reason. Your purpose statement must answer this question for your audience.
Purpose statements make use of emotive and descriptive language.
A healthy cookbook for families could say “We exist to create great tasting recipes that are healthy for the whole family.” This does a good job describing what they do.
Or they can say “We exist so kids can experience how yummy fresh food can taste.” This does a better job of communicating why their customers should care.
Both statements are descriptive of the purpose: healthy, tasty and family. The latter chooses kids instead of family because it is more important to the parent cooking these meals. They also used a more active word – experience and their word choice of ‘yummy’ brought in the child’s perspective.
When a parent worries about cooking tasty, healthy meals, chances are they only care about healthy because they care so much about the little one who will be eating it. Does that mean that this company doesn’t care about parents eating healthy? No. But it does mean they have a clear purpose and it’s one parents can get behind too. Give them a reason to care.